I have recently been expanding my collection of old Sci-Fi and horror novels, mainly through the wonder of eBay’s iPad app. It’s a ridiculously easy way to track down books which are in some cases over fifty years old for good prices, a little too easy at times! My passion of late has been centred around imprints such as Daw, Badger and Digit which published many hundreds of titles in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. These publishers apparently employed teams of writers who would commonly work under a variety of pseudonyms to produce novels at an unbelievable rate. One such author has the dubious distinction of writing a total of eighty nine titles during the most productive period of his tenure, a startling figure which relates to delivering a completed book every twelve days… for three years!
It was also standard practice to provide the writers with cover art before the novel was even written, thereby creating an interesting situation where the cover painting is almost more important than the writing contained within the book. These paintings were often much better than the stories themselves and were always inventive, audacious and impossibly lurid. I will post a selection of the best art from my collection in the coming weeks to illustrate this point.
A few days ago, I was flipping through a rather excellent book which presented an overview of the history and development of Sci-Fi art through the years when I came across one of the most intriguing covers I had ever encountered. The book which caught my attention is called Slan by A.E. Van Vogt and was first published in 1947 by Arkham House. I know little about the story other than it was originally written and serialised in a magazine at the end of 1940.
The cover painting by Robert E. Hubbell depicts one of the Slan, a super-evolved human being who sports a particularly fetching outfit as he looks toward a distant, bustling metropolis. But what is he viewing this city of the future through? It looks an awful lot like a white iPad to me, albeit minus the home button. Maybe the Slan is testing an early prototype for Apple. It’s also clearly running some kind of augmented reality app which is capable of highlighting the nearest restaurants or places of interest. I have long held a suspicion that Jonny Ive’s team has access to a time travel device when marvelling at his bold industrial designs and this seems to be a clear indicator that I may well have been right all along.